What lessons can popculture learn from innovation in the smartphone marketplace? With no reference at all to Daredevil: End of Days, a conversation with tech-guru Dan Rasmus proves instructive…
Daredevil: End of Days #1 (of 8)Publisher: Marvel
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, David Mack, Klaus Janson
Publication Date: 2012-12
Luckily, Dan was just a phone call away.
It needed to be a call to Dan, of course, because Dan's pretty much refocused his occupational output to considering analysis of business and knowledge management structures. Because Dan's gone from working at Hughes Aircraft and MicroSoft, to thinking about how people will continue to work at corporations like Hughes and MicroSoft. And this shift, and the ensuing consultancy has meant that Dan's now participant in constructing whatever style of corporate organization comes next.
And it needed to be Dan, because honestly, watching the rollout of the iPhone 5 on Twitter has just dialed up a high-humidity heat-haze of murk that just refuses to end, but instead rolls out in waves and equal waves of decontextualized smarminess and dread. Earlier things had already gotten into a kind of bad forbidding with Fake Steve Jobs' BBC OpEd. It was only a matter of time before I would get caught in a wave of near-religious zealotry. "We miss Steve Jobs and we want to pain to stop", the mood might seem to say, describing how Saint Steve was the one honest visionary in the room, his eye always on innovation.
It needed to be Dan, because honestly, Dan would help cut through the murk. I knew this intuitively, but what I didn't know was how exactly he'd wield the sword of rationalism. Then I call. And it's a call we both have our separate takeaways from. For Dan it's something along the lines of thinking about the actual future of innovation for smartphones. My takeaway's a little different in its focus. It comes out of something Dan says right at the beginning, that Fake Steve's view presupposes that there's still very much innovation left in the smartphone. "I'm waiting for a time when phones no longer look like phones, when they look like earpieces that communicate directly with a tablet, maybe", Dan says and the effect is chilling. What if we really have reached and evolutionary endpoint for smartphones? What if, there's not that much innovation left?
It's this idea of an evolutionary terminus that hits home with me. And particularly the idea of popculture having some kind of ultimate evolutionary form. Especially with a character like DD that has over the decades been rendered (by the hands of creative teams like Brubaker/Lark, Miller/Janson and of course, Bendis/Maleev) in such singular, arresting, dare-I-say, definitive forms. To wit, it really is just pure fun to read writer Brian Michael Bendis playing off of co-writer David Mack as they must have done during Daredevil: Wake Up! (where Mack was artist). And it is a pure joy to read Bendis' overcoded paneling, a mark of his early creativity that can be found in Sam & Twitch all the way through Alias (and that really seems to hit a pinnacle in Hellspawn). But the overarching question needs to be, why this Daredevil, why now? Haven't we hit the terminal point with Daredevils?
Dan's comment hinges on the idea of infinite innovation, that there's always one historical force that works to perfect popular forms. And an entirely other forces that works to expand them into entirely new arenas. Just as you'd have various examples of smartphones (iPhones, Androids), the really exciting idea is what comes next; when Is a phone not a phone? Similarly, Miller/Janson, Brubaker/Lark and even Bendis himself together with Alex Maleev, have done wonders to set up DD within continuity. You can trace a line from Miller's DD's in the 80s to Bendis' and then Brubaker's DD's in the 00s. That's all a part of official Marvel canon. But the really exciting part, the Next in "what comes Next?", lies in the projects that lie outside of continuity. It is the pure imaginative leap of what could perhaps have been. The kinds of stories that reemphasize popculture artifacts as powered by ideas.
And it's in this regard that Daredevil: End of Days is wildly successful. Because it is a testbed for the idea of Daredevil, rather than simply the daily adventures he finds himself embroiled in.